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13:14 14th August 2011

Exeter City 0 MK Dons 2

So on a warm and cloudy afternoon at the Park, the gloomy weather was matched by a dour display on the pitch as MK Dons eased their way to a comfortable 2-0 win in front of 4832 supporters. City lined up: Krysiak; Golbourne, Duffy, Archibald-Henville, Tully; Sercombe, Shephard, Noble, Dunne; McNish, Bignall.

With four strikers out injured, playing the lone role up front was a big ask for Reading loanee Nicholas Bignall, so help would be needed from supporting midfielders. And so it was a mere seconds in that Callum McNish - playing a deeper role to Bignall's more advanced position - chanced his arm from 25 yards with a smart turn and shot that cleared the bar.

Five minutes later Duffy spotted Sercombe's run to the edge of the box and drilled a raking 50 yard ball into his path perfectly bisecting a couple of closing defenders. Sercombe took the pass expertly before cutting in and firing a low shot towards the corner, however the keeper was out quickly and deflected the ball over for a corner that Bignall wastefully blasted high over the bar. On the quarter hour some nifty short passing between McNish, Noble and Bignall presented McNish with a chance, but he stubbed a grubber harmlessly straight at the keeper.

Then, in the 22nd minute, and against the run of play, MK took the lead. A shot from outside the box spooned up and over the defence to land right at the feet of bustling striker Jabo Ibhere who showed good strength and composure to react quickest and prod home past Krysiak to put the visitors 1-0 up. Which knocked the stuffing out of City as up until then they'd comfortably dominated possession with MK seeing little of the ball and little goalmouth action. But with ten minutes to go to the break City finally fashioned an opening when Sercombe hit a tester from range well over the bar.

A neat interchange between McNish, Shephard and Noble saw McNish somewhat flap at a chance as he blasted over, then a minute before the interval City had the best chance of the match when Sercombe was sent scampering down the left. With time and space he stood a perfect cross to the far post where the unmarked Bignall somehow contrived to butt the ball wide from six yards out with the goal at his mercy.

Eight minutes into the second half McNish was replaced by the more conventional striker Tom Nichols as City switched from 4-4-1-1 to 4-4-2, and with a bit more support around him it helped Bignall force an opening after a strong run from Sercombe saw him find space to turn and shoot from 15 yards as defenders closed in. Midway through the half a determined charge from Nichols was ended illegally on the edge of the box where Noble cleverly pushed the ball across the penalty area for Dunne to hit a low drive that was deflected away to safety.

A minute later Billy Jones entered the fray at Shephard's expense as City changed to a 3-5-2 formation with Jones slotting in at the back and Tully and Golbourne pushing forward as wide midfielders. The ball was then worked from the right to Golbourne who hoisted a cross back into the box that Bignall glanced over the angle of post and bar, but that was as good as it got for City as MK sealed the win in the final minute. A sloppy ball forward from Duffy was easily intercepted and with Tully stranded up the pitch - looking for a ball from Duffy that never came - the ball was played in behind him to MK sub Dean Bowditch who had a free run in on goal from the half way line where he made no mistake sliding the ball across Krysiak into the far corner to make it an easy 2-0 to MK.

So not the best of starts to the home campaign, but perhaps understandable. With a number of players missing, City looked toothless up front, and against a strong side like MK it was always going to be a difficult task coming from behind. But the lads tried and worked hard and didn't give up, even if the majority of their efforts were somewhat in vain. But there's an immediate chance to put that right this coming Tuesday when we entertain Brentford, and hopefully we might have eased our injury worries by then too as Bauza, Logan and Nardiello weren't far off making this game today.

So lets look forward to an improved display on Tuesday with hopefully a bit more bite and a bit more reward for working hard. Look forward to seeing you all then.

    Data provided by Press Association